The Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi for Britain and the World

Viewpoint by Lord Rami Ranger

The writer, Lord Rami Ranger, CBE of Mayfair is a Member of the British House of Lords.

LONDON (IDN) – There is a mischievous campaign against the statues of Mahatma Gandhi in the UK and other countries including the US launched by misguided and ill-informed few.

These statues were erected by a great public demand to recognise the immense contribution of Gandhi Ji to the free world. As a result, this protest is unwarranted, uncalled for, unnecessary and above all, counterproductive. [Ji is a gender-neutral honorific used as a suffix in many languages of the Indian subcontinent]

If Britain wishes to acknowledge the contribution of a leader who was also the architect for bringing an end to the British rule in India, then it speaks volumes about the vision and values of this great man.

I shudder to think what our world would have been today without Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle for racial equality which started in South Africa. To call him a racist is totally out of order when he dedicated his entire life-fighting racism, imperial rule and shaped the world as we see it today.

Mahatma Gandhi was not only an Indian leader but a universal icon that inspired people across the globe with his ideals. The civil rights movement in America under Dr Martin Luther King was the direct result of Bapuji’s inspiration.

[Bapu is a word for “father” in many Indian languages such as Gujarati and Marathi, and in this case refers to Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948), officially honoured as Bapu (Father) of the Nation of India]

The struggle against apartheid in South Africa by Nelson Mandela is yet another example. It is wrong to show respect to someone who put the interests of the oppressed above that of his own? How many people do we know in the world who gave up everything for a cause that they believed in?

Those who accuse Mahatma Gandhi of racism are ignorant. How can one forget the immortal words of Nelson Mandela about Mahatma Gandhi? Mandela had said that “Gandhi must be forgiven those prejudices and judged in the context of the time and circumstances. We are looking here at the young Gandhi, still to become Mahatma, when he was without any human prejudice save that in favour of Truth and Justice.”

Gandhi Ji was well-educated and could have easily continued to live a comfortable life like most prefer to do. He gave up his comfort and wealth for the sake of freedom for his countrymen.

It is very unfortunate that today a few misguided individuals choose to overlook his Herculean struggle for humanity and wish to mock and belittle his great achievements. Had he not shown the leadership, then I doubt India could have gained freedom peacefully through the Non-Violence movement. Nor would we have seen the Civil Rights movement in the USA and a black President Barack Obama and the end of apartheid in South Africa.

History shows us that there are only a handful of people to have lived and served in the way Mahatma Gandhi did. Condemning or criticising a leader, who is revered the world over by finding fault in him is detrimental to every leader who followed in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi.

By trying to tarnish his memory and his teachings, cannot take his wisdom and lessons forward to our future generations. The statue of someone who renounced violence and spoke of civility many decades ago, when violence was being perpetrated on minorities by majorities every day acted and acts as a great symbol of peace and harmony. His famous saying, “an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind” serves us well even today.

His statues show that one’s objective can be achieved peacefully as long as there is merit in the cause. He once said, “strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from an indomitable will” This was the basis of his peaceful Quit India movement which brought India independence.

Mahatma Gandhi’s wisdom and respect for his principles have spread the world over. Apart from the British monarchs, no other person in history has had stamps issued to honour him as many times as Mahatma Gandhi. Over 50 countries have issued postage stamps to honour Gandhi Ji. This must demonstrate his respect across the world.

History is full of leaders who fought for freedom with arms which resulted in the death and destruction of millions of innocent lives. Gandhi Ji, on the other hand, advocated a peaceful and nonviolent freedom struggle based on Indian values.

Gandhi Ji knew that violence would generate more bloodshed and disorder, which would result in the loss of hundreds and thousands of innocent Indian and British lives to achieve the ultimate goal of freedom.

The loss of even a single life, whether Indian or British, was unacceptable to Mahatma Gandhi. He knew that once people became violent, then their character would change forever and that they would remain violent even after their objective is achieved.

We can see people in certain countries where leaders have encouraged the use of violence to achieve their goals, and where violence has become ingrained in their culture and character and remains in their DNA long after their objectives have been fulfilled. 

Bapuji was a great visionary. Whereas some leaders opted for a religious state, Bapuji chose a Secular and Democratic India where everyone would be equal. He knew that no country could move forward by keeping a section of its population behind by systematically discriminating against people based on their religion, caste or gender.

The result is in front of us and for all to see how India is surging ahead, whereas religious-based countries are in great turmoil. Leaders in religious countries always keep their citizens down in the name of religion to cover their own failings. This is the reason Indians are shining across the globe because they are the product of a secular and democratic country and as a result, can easily integrate into any society easily and quickly.

Mahatma Gandhi was unique in many ways. He had no desire to rule the people. Instead, it was to serve them selflessly. We can see in some countries, leaders put their interests above those of their people and in the process bring immense sufferings to them and impede the progress of their respective countries.

The United Nations marks October 2, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, as the International Day of Non-Violence every year as Bapuji is the pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.

According to General Assembly resolution A/RES/61/271 of June 15, 2007, which established the commemoration, the International Day of Non-Violence is an occasion to “disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness”. The resolution reaffirms “the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence” and the desire “to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence”.

To mark the 2019 International Day of Non-Violence, the President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria said: “For the United Nations, almost everything that is fundamental that UN stands for has prefigured in the work, life and thought of Gandhi.”

He further mentioned: “Let me simply state here that we have a lot to learn from this figure and the world must continue to deal with non-violence including the battle to get us out of our penchant for thinking that the sharper we make our weapons, the healthier or safer we are, this is a fallacy.”

Gandhi Ji’s message of love and non-violence has become even more critical and relevant than ever before in our fractured world. Peace can only come when world leaders start to follow Gandhi Ji’s ideals. His statues are there to remind us of his contribution to non-violence and a peaceful co-existence of the humankind.

Those who attempt to denigrate the memory of Mahatma Gandhi are doing irreparable and immense harm to humanity itself, and this cannot be allowed to happen.

Gandhi’s commitment to India’s independence and his methods of Non-Violence has been the cornerstone of civil and human rights initiatives all over the world. Only “just means lead to just ends” and this is a lesson one should take to heart.

I never forget words of Albert Einstein who said of Mahatma Gandhi: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”

The statues of Mahatma Gandhi in Britain and across the world are there to remind us not only about the person and his immense struggle to secure freedom for India but also about the relevance of Gandhian values to end conflict through non-violence, and bring a peaceful social change for the betterment of humankind. [IDN-InDepthNews, 29 June 2020]

Photo: Collage of the pictures of the writer (left) with British Prime Minister David Cameron (centre) and Indian PM Narendra Modi (right) and the UN flag (right). Credit: TwoTone

IDN is flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence. You are free to share, remix, tweak and build upon it non-commercially. Please credit to the source.

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top